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A multi-generational trip to Scotland hits all the highlights

We’ve all come to our ancestral homeland to visit my daughter, who’s just finished a semester abroad at the University of Aberdeen, here in the northeast of Scotland.



And my mom’s first tee shot at the Devenick course at the Paul Lawrie Golf Centre in Aberdeen, Scotland gets nice air and distance to land – plonk – on the green 10 metres from the hole.

A two putt in and my mom, Anne MacNaull, is on par.

Me, my son, Alex, and my dad, Bob, don’t shoot as well and end up with 4s and a 5 on the first hole.

The 9-hole, par 3 Devenick is challenging, with lots of sand and water to make it interesting (or frustrating).

In the end, our scores don’t matter.

After all, we’re playing golf in the birthplace of the game, the scenery is rolling highlands and we’re spending time as a family, praising the inspired shots, trash talking the bad.

By the way, the golf centre is named after Paul Lawrie, the Aberdeen-based golfer who has eight European tour victories, including the 1999 Open at Carnoustie.

This round of golf is the kick-off of a multi-generational trip to Scotland for the MacNaull clan, which also includes my wife, Kerry, and our daughter, Grace.

They’re off at Costa sipping lattes while we golf.

We’ve all come to our ancestral homeland to visit Grace, who’s just finished a semester abroad at the University of Aberdeen, here in the northeast of Scotland.

But the purpose of our sojourn isn’t just education and hitting the links, but castle hopping, sipping whisky and researching family history.

While the itinerary is full, this journey is just as much about spending time together as an extended family, chatting and laughing over happy hour drinks and dinners in pubs and wandering cobblestone streets.

It’s something we rarely get to do with me, my wife and our son living in Kelowna, our daughter in Victoria (and Aberdeen) and my parents in Haliburton, Ont.

Air Canada flies daily between Toronto and Edinburgh, making it easy for us to connect from Kelowna and meet my parents at the Pearson airport in Toronto to jet to the Scottish capital as a family.

From our first base in Aberdeen, we take in the area highlights Grace has already discovered – the historic University of Aberdeen campus; the ruins of Dunnottar Castle and the UK’s best fish and chips at The Bay Cafe in Stonehaven; and Balmoral Castle, the favoured Scottish holiday home of the late Queen.

The second half of our multi-gen romp is spent in Edinburgh, the cosmopolitan and historic capital at the five-star Balmoral Hotel.

The hotel itself is a sumptuous destination, one of the city’s most distinctive buildings, located at the base of Princes Street resembling a castle with its clock tower and Scottish baronial-style architecture.

From the Balmoral, we are walking distance to all of the city’s greatest hits – imposing Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse and bagpiper-lined Royal Mile in Old Town and the Royal Yacht Britannia, Princes Street Park and the Johnnie Walker Experience in New Town.

The Johnnie Walker Experience takes whisky tasting to a whole new level with an immersive, showy and high-tech look at the brand’s history and how the drink is made and enjoyed – yes, there are three cocktails along the way.

We also ended up at Johnnie Walker's roof-top bar and restaurant for more drinks and eats with a spectacular view of Edinburgh Castle.

The pedestrianized Royal Mile is a buzzy, people-watching dream of a street flanked by endless pubs and souvenir shops, connecting Holyrood at one end to Edinburgh Castle at the other.

The most fascinating link between the two is Mary, Queen of Scots, who lived in both castles.

At Holyrood in 1566, in Mary’s bedchamber, her secretary, rumoured lover and possible baby daddy, David Rizzio, was brutally stabbed to death, likely on the orders of Mary’s jealous husband, Lord Darnley.

Me, my mom and my dad end up at Romanes & Paterson (established 1808), a tartan, kilt and souvenir shop at 158 Princes St. to dive a bit into our genealogy.

My dad already knows his grandparents died in Bonnybridge, near Glasgow, of tuberculosis and their five orphaned boys, including his father, were sent to eastern Ontario.

At the time of their death, they were using the last name McNaull, the ‘Mc’ a throwback to their ancestors coming from Ireland.

It became MacNaull in a nod to Scottish ‘Mac’ spelling.

Either way, the name is rare in both Scotland and Canada, but it’s listed in the Romanes & Paterson database.

We find out the MacNaulls weren’t rich enough to have their own family crest and tartan, so they piggybacked off the tartan of the Galloway District near Glasgow, the Galloway name again a throwback to many of the settlers there coming from Ireland.

So, tartan scarves in the Galloway tartan of modern red and hunting green are purchased, mementos of our multi-gen, fact-finding journey to Scotland.

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